Caught in the Revolution by Helen Rappaport (‘Let’s stop talking and act.’)

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I have long been enamored of Russia, taking so many Russian literature classes in college I practically earned a minor degree in the subject. It doesn’t matter how much I have read of their woe and heartache, my fascination still holds thirty years later. And it has only been reinforced by this most excellent book by Helen Rappaport. With a perfect blend of prose and quotations, she gives us an account of the Russian Revolution which happened one hundred years ago this month. Here are some excerpts from Caught in The Revolution describing the initial events:

Thursday, February 9, 1917:

“The Cossacks are again patrolling the city on account of threatened strikes-for the women are beginning to rebel at standing in bread lines from 5:00 a.m. for shops that open at 10:00 a.m., and that in weather twenty-five degrees below zero.” J. Butler Wright

Saturday, February 25, 1917:

“Violent protest was certainly the intention of the workers over in the factory districts that morning, as they gathered for a huge march on the city. This time they had ensured that they wore plenty of padding under their thick coats to ward off blows…The impromptu bread protests of two days ago had now expanded into a political movement, colored by more and more acts of violence and looting.” p. 62-63

Monday, February 27, 1917:

“Events had, in fact, taken a decisive turn in the early hours of 27 February when the army, as many had predicted, began mutinying…In those first few hours most of the rebellious soldiers appeared disoriented and numbed by the momentous decision they had made, and for some time they had no sense of where to go and what to do, other than incite other regiments to join them.” p. 85-86

But, once the prisons were opened, the workmen were armed, and the soldiers were without officers, things were no where near to being solved.

Helen Rappaport writes an absolutely compelling account of the Russian Revolution, so mesmerizing it practically reads like a novel. The pages fly by as I find myself absorbed in the first hand accounts and meticulous research which she has conducted.

Caught in the Revolution not only tells about the troubled history of Russia, it speaks pointedly of a nation’s unrest with a leader whom they see as non-conciliatory.  I’ve read about them in the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and I fear for our own country in its present state of discord and bitter unhappiness. It is not too far a stretch to draw parallels between the angry citizens of Russia and present day America although we are one hundred years apart.

The publication of this book couldn’t be more timely.

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17 comments

  1. The current state of events would if they weren’t so scary be quite funny (dressing gown / news cover up etc.), this makes for a scenario that a large portion of the world are looking on & wondering how these events will resolve. Will rule of law, social progress & cultural inclusion win out or will we continue down the path we appear to be on & not sure how it goes without chucking in doomsday scenarios & a slide back to some forms of the dark ages. This is not the forum to state my views/worries you’ve probably seen my FB posts so are already of them, so sticking to the post here this seems like a highly topical & on point book that would be of interest to anyone regardless of its point in time or specific subject matter & like a lot of good books transcends that matter to teach us lessons that are relevant now.

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    1. This is such s good reminder why history should never be ignored; do we want to suffer the same mistakes? I think not. But, I can easily see people losing control, on your side of the pond and mine, over our respective leaders. If they look at Nicholas I, they may wish to make some changes in order to appease their people. At least a bit.

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  2. I thought of you when I unpacked these books for a display yesterday morning! Yes, it’s a very timely book and one that I’m afraid to read right now. It may foreshadow things to come in our country… I’ve stopped looking at Twitter, cable news and yes, I’ve even given up NPR, for now. I was becoming too addicted to seeking out the latest news updates and it was making me too anxious. Time to spend more time with my beloved books.

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    1. Fancy you remembering my passion for Russia, especially its literature!

      I so understand removing one’s self from news and social media. The poison being spewed is venomous, and I have deliberately withdrawn in order not to feel so attacked. Sadly, I tend to take things personally.

      Time for more beloved books to be sure!

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  3. As soon as I saw the title of this post I thought about the current state of our country. This book definitely sounds like you found it at the right time. Glad you are enjoying it so much that it reads like a novel 🙂

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    1. I would be hard pressed to find a book about Russia, be it fiction or historical, that I did not love. I think that people who don’t enjoy reading about it as much as I do would still enjoy this beautifully written historical piece which is documented so carefully with quotes from people who were there.

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  4. This book does sound well worth checking out – thank you! Was it from you I learned about White Road by Olga Ilyin? I bought a used hardcover and immediately lent it to my daughter who loved it and bought her own copy. I hope to read that one, too, this year.

    Did you read the account by Serge Schmemann of his decade in Russia researching his ancestors: Echoes of a Native Land: Two Centuries of a Russian Village? I haven’t read a great deal about Russia — at least, compared to what I’d like, and what the topic seems to call for! — but I found his tales fascinating. And he writes so well. Forgive me if we already discussed one or both of these books.

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  5. Hi Meredith 🙂 I do not remember if I told you about my family, on my paternal grandmother’s side. For generations her family was born and worked for the Tsar’s. Like many educated Europeans they taught everything from agricultural issues to education, language etc….
    They returned to Paris before the revolution.
    Much love, Sylvie Madeleine

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